Monday, October 13, 2014

Tales From East End Blvd: The Beauty In The Despair Of A Song - By Husky Burnette

Tales From East End Blvd: The Beauty In The Despair Of A Song - By Husky Burnette

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Are you the type of music lover that likes to hear what the song says or wonders what it's about? If you've ever paid attention and truly listened to song lyrics, chances are you've heard those tear jerkers and stories of hard times, pouring out like water from the person singing and telling them. 

I, myself, am a huge lyric guy. From a young age I always got into the lyrics and wondered what songs were about. And as I'm sitting here watching the documentary "Hank Williams - Honky Tonk Blues" I'm realizing how much me and ol' Hank have / had in common.

A man claims he once asked him, "Hank, how do you write them ol' heart songs?" Hank answered "Boy, Hell, you've got to live it. If you want to make it, you can't fake it. You've got to live it." This is so true for all of us songwriters who write about real life happenings. One of my favorite quotes from the documentary is from writer Rick Bragg: "He sang about loss and grief and funerals. It always seemed like, instead of making you think about those things and making you sad, it was the opposite. It was as if he pounded out all that agony and all that grief and all that sadness thin enough where you could stand it."

Wow. What a description. He hit the nail dead center on the head about Hank Sr.'s life and writing. This style of songwriting has always been my favorite. I write that way today...always have, always will. There are so many pros to writing like this. It's easy to write about things that have actually happened. If it's a bad time in your life, and you write about it, it's a form of release. See, us musician folk, especially the songwriter and the artist, we are a wild, battered breed. We probably wouldn't be playing music if we weren't, somehow, a rare, chaotic kind of person. 

That's not to say that all songwriters had to have been through Hell to write about hard times because not all have had hard lives. Also, that doesn't mean the songwriter that hasn't had a hard life isn't any good at their craft. It just happens I'm writing this blog about the ones who've had a crazy life...because I can relate. The ones who have been through Hell, though, have really got something to say, whether it's just to get it off their chest, to reach out to an individual by way of song or for whatever other reason. When you hear those songs, strikingly poetic or not, they're deep, they're heavy, they mean something. They mean something because they're REAL. 

Everyone in the world has been through some kind of pain in their lifetime. Life isn't perfect, so people can relate to these songs. For example, look at Billy Don Burns or Roger Alan Wade (listen to Roger's - Deguello Motel album for some heavy They have something to say because they've lived it, man, trust me! I've seen them live it, up close and personal and I've lived it right there with the both of them a time or ten. 

Before and after me and Roger parted, there were many nights, strictly as a listener and fan, that one of Roger's songs helped me get through something. That's the beauty of a song, really, relating to it. It becomes personal at that point and nothing can ever stand in between you and that song from the moment you connect and put it to your own life event. 

Roger Alan Wade is a songwriter that songwriters go to for the well of inspiration
I have a theory about songwriters, artists period, actually. The theory is that most all of us are crazy, wired a bit differently somehow, one way or another. I mean this in a way that's similar, or in the same vein, as how people describe and perceive the insane geniuses of our time (so I use the word "crazy" loosely). We're not all really crazy of course but, we've been through something that makes us who we are. We got into music as a release and an outlet, maybe because of some kind of bad happening in our life. We turned to music, who never judges us and makes us smile, and then all is well. I usually use this theory to describe how or why bands argue on the road. We're all screwed up so when you stick three to five of us in a van together there are definitely going to be disagreements. 

Well, I feel this holds up and proves to be true in the department of songwriting too. We've been through some pain, so what better way to get that off of our mind or ease the pain than to put it into a song? We take those stories of hard times and put them to a beautiful noise. We create art. The outcome is a masterpiece, even if it's only a masterpiece to the writer. If the song never gets heard by anyone it's still perfection. It's therapy of sorts. I think growing up or living like this can make a damn good songwriter. In some cases we remain this way on some level. Is it on purpose, maybe unconsciously, to keep pumping out good songs? 

Is it because we've lived this way for so long that it's just inside of us and we don't know how to get rid of it? Who knows, but if some of my favorite writers hadn't lived the way they did, I wouldn't have as many great songs in my life. What if we never had Gram Parsons, Keith Richards, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and the likes? These types of songwriters can write about good and bad both, though, because one they know very well and the other they strive for. 

Take one of my idols, Leon Russell, for instance (one of my favorite songwriters ever). He's a master at both positive love songs as well as sad songs. I feel that he wrote the greatest love song in existence, "A Song For You" and that nobody will ever top it. That song does it for me as far as love songs go. Yet he also wrote some great sad songs such as "Manhattan Island Serenade" and "Me and Baby Jane". All three of those tunes leave me speechless, especially "A Song For You". The words he wrote for it are extremely beautiful and the way he worded it is so poetic. Roger Alan Wade does the same thing to me with his song "Bear Loves Honey", a truly genuine love song. He also does it in tons of other songs with lines like "I lick the nectar from the holy flower of freedom". What!?!? That's the type of genius lyric that makes you sad that you hadn't written something so damn great.

A journalist interviewing me for the Chattanooga Times Free Press asked me how I write my songs once. I told him a lot of the stories are actual events that happened to me during a very rough spot in my life. He then asked did I feel I needed to keep a bit of that trouble and that "hard road" guy in my life for material, to keep writing the blues. I quickly answered something like "Hell no! I have enough stories and memories for material to last the rest of my life and then some". But, did I really get what he was saying at the time? Maybe he was hitting on something else without either of us realizing it. Maybe that hard lifestyle is instilled in me because of the way I grew up. Not necessarily my actions but, the things that caused me to act out in the first place. It really makes you wonder! Me and James Leg just had a conversation two weeks ago, discussing that possibility because of our very similar pasts and writings. We agreed we wouldn't have some of the most stellar songs and artists in our lives had it not been for them going through what they did. It's almost like we're programmed this way or something. Like some force or energy causes the troubled times to cycle back around every so often to keep us writing like we do. Maybe that's a little too deep and I'm over thinking. Maybe not though...maybe I'm just a "crazy" songwriter.

 - Husky Burnette